Critical times call for critical measures. Whether it be an 18th Century potato famine in Ireland or a 50-year old Middle East land dispute in the new millennium, population control is a messy issue that needs to be addressed and resolved.
The world population reached 6 billion people on October 12, 1999. The child who brought the world population to 6 billion could have been born in your neighborhood or in the West Bank. As we grow exponentially, we will double that number in a mere 40 years. The continent of Asia supports nearly 2/3 of those people, and it is expected that Africa will, in the near future, give them a run for their money.
Every day, roughly 240,000 more people are born than die. Life spans are longer than ever, and infant mortality is at an all-time low. Feeding the multitudes today makes Ireland's famine look like small potatoes, indeed.
Mulling over the possible solutions for this dilemma, I was reminded of Jonathan Swift's 1729 essay A Modest Proposal. As we now stand on the other side of a new millennium, it's time to give this age-old issue a fresh swat around the ballpark.
It's all in the numbers
If we look closely enough we might find that our current war du jour in the Middle East might just have the answer. Suicide bombing is an attempt at zero population growth. From its most basic perspective, the math is relatively simple. Since the Israelis outnumber the West Bank Palestinians 3 to 1, for every successful suicide bomber capable of taking out 3 Israelis, complete annihilation of both countries could be accomplished. The time element is a little more involved. It would depend on the purchasing and assembling of said bombs. And then of course there is the matter of drawing straws to see who goes next.
However if you read the papers much, there doesn't seem to be any shortage of volunteers.
E-Z Pass to Paradise
Martyrdom is the ultimate act of sacrifice and bravery in the land of Jihad. What better way to meet one's maker (or Allah as the case may be) then to strap on some heavy-duty explosives, paid for by your very own appreciative government.
Us Western folk have a hard time comprehending suicide. We see it as the workings of a criminal mind, lumped together with the deviant behavior of say... a serial killer. Quite the contrary, however, since suicide bombers only have one shot at hitting their mark. No practice trials or opportunities for a do-over.
What makes them tick (figuratively speaking)?
At this point, the demographic has become legion. Almost exclusively male, young, idealistic and driven by a doctrine of hate, revenge and political purpose, with every new Israeli incursion, they backfill with a new crop of young and willing zealots-in-training.
They view themselves as fallen heroes, someone who will sacrifice their own lives to strike deep into the heart of the enemy. Not unlike the biblical Samson, who used his own body to bring a stronghold down on himself and his enemies, they believe that human missiles are their most lethal weapon. The element of surprise is key--to strike Israelis where it hurts, inside their shopping centers, markets and restaurants, making them afraid even to send their children to school.
According to the Israel Insider, 47% of the suicide bombers have an academic education and an additional 29% have at least a high school education. 83% of the suicide bombers are single. These be smart (and unattached) bombs.
Self-imploding isn't the only impact...consider the economics
64% of the suicide bombers are between the ages 18-23. In Jonathan Swift's day, the average beggar's child cost a family two shillings per annum (rags included). In his Modest Proposal the selling of that child for food was his first stab at population control. In so doing, his belief was that "no gentleman would repine to give ten shillings for the carcass of a good fat child," making the family a neat little profit of eight shillings per year. Today, Saddam Hussein just upped the ante from US$10,000 to US$25,000 payable to every family, whose child signs up for Bombs R Us. Enough to make our 18th Century satirist roll over in his grave don't you think? Talk about inflation.
Living in an immaterial world--and they are immaterial girls
There are exceptions to every rule, and the latest trend is the arrival of women on the battlefields of self-annihilation. Just as angry as their male counterparts and earning less respect in the real world than the males, you can begin to understand what the attraction might be for these gals who just wanna have fun.
Some stand apart, such as Wafa Idris. The 28-year-old divorcee from a West Bank refugee camp was known for her lively manner and outgoing personality. When she killed herself and an old man, and injured scores of others on January 31, she was the first woman suicide bomber in the 16-month-old Palestinian intifada, or uprising. Older than most other suicide bombers, she was hailed a heroine and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein announced that a monument honoring her sacrifice would be built in Baghdad. Not exactly Joan of Arc, but you get picture.
The irony of course is the respect earned by dying is more desirable for these women than the pain they have to endure living as second class citizens in a fundamentalist regime.
Swift noted that since women were breeders, best to control population at its source. Get rid of those baby-makers.
Suicide bombings also have some other residual advantages. Online shopping has risen sharply in the past few months as Israelis avoid supermarket lines and venues. The same goes for the video shops. The take-out food industry has seen a boost as well, in addition to clothing stores selling more oversized baggy garments. Couple this with the fact that tourism has been reduced to a trickle, suicide bombers can now concentrate on the people that really count. Any way, foreigners just don't get it!
Additionally, overhead is ridiculously low compared to manning a full-fledged militia. For a mere $US150 to $US300, one can arm, maim and kill without sending the military budget into a deficit.
So for one's 15 minutes of fame, 25K for family members, a free pass on the stairway to heaven, vestal virgins and no more of that infernal racket from wailing and grieving mothers or fathers cursing out the people that stole their land--sounds like this whole idea kills two birds with one bomb. Martyrdom for the bomber and population control of the bombees!
Unfortunately, Swift's bold political treatise was viewed as a parody by both literary and political thinkers of his time, and his proposal was never acted upon. Let's watch as this new drama unfolds in modern times to see if it has a shot at being successful. If not total zero population growth...at least... till Mr. Arafat draws the short straw.